A carjacker drove ‘like a lunatic’ to get away from Gardaí, while roaring “drive it like you stole it” at the terrified owner, who had been assaulted and bundled into the back seat of his own car.
Fearing loss of life as the 1999 Volkswagen Golf drove at high speed – mostly on the incorrect side of the road for almost 30km from Galway City to Corrandulla – Gardaí decided to end the pursuit 10km into the chase.
The driver finally lost control while trying to negotiate a bend near Corrandulla at speed. The car mounted a steep embankment and crashed into a tree, landing on its side.
The driver and two of his friends were uninjured, while the car’s owner received injuries to his arm and shoulder. He underwent surgery and spent six days in hospital.
At his four-day trial before a jury at Galway Circuit Criminal Court last week, John Conroy (23), of 2 Bog Road, Ballinrobe, denied thirteen counts of dangerous driving at locations in the Galway City area, between Ballymoneen Road, Knocknacarra and Ballinfoyle, Headford Road, on May 31, 2016.
Conroy also denied a charge of public endangerment, in that he intentionally or recklessly drove straight through red lights at speed and crossed over a dual carriageway at Quincentenary Bridge and drove on the incorrect side of the road, forcing oncoming vehicles to take action to avoid a head-on collision, which created a substantial risk of causing death or serious harm to another, on the same date.
He further denied a charge of seizing the car by force from Thomas Ackroyd on a boreen in Shantallow, Tuam, on the same date.
In a separate development, on the final day of the trial at Galway Courthouse last Friday, the jury of six men and six women had to be transported by bus to lunch at the Imperial Hotel in Eyre Square, amid Garda concerns of juror intimidation by some people attending the trial. Two Gardaí were assigned to protect the jury until they returned to the courthouse to begin their deliberations that afternoon.
Thomas Ackroyd (27), who owned the Golf, told the jury on the first day of the trial last Tuesday, that he could remember nothing after he finished work in a car valeting business in Ballinrobe on the evening of May 31, 2016.
During legal argument in the absence of the jury, he said he had been under the influence of morphine at the time due to his injuries and could only remember 2% of what was in two voluntary statements which he had given to Sergeant Emma Kerin at Tuam Garda Station on June 6 and again on June 17, 2016.
Following further legal argument, prosecuting barrister, Ms Geri Silke, was allowed by Judge Eoin Garavan to read the two statements into evidence – once the trial resumed in front of the jury.
She explained to jurors that her reading the statements to them was the same as if Ackroyd was giving the evidence himself directly from the witness box.
In his first statement, Ackroyd said he was sitting in his car in Ballinrobe town that evening, talking to a girl in another car beside his, when John Conroy and Michael “Kinsey” Sweeney got into his car. They asked him to drive them to Galway but he refused.
They became threatening and demanded he drive them to Foxhall. He was petrified and agreed to do so. On the way, they picked up TJ Sweeney.
Ackroyd was told to drive up a boreen, which led to Western Casings on the outskirts of Tuam. He was terrified at this point and when he tried to reverse out of the boreen, Conroy headbutted him.
Kinsey then opened the driver’s door and pulled him out, before bundling him into the back seat. Ackroyd said he really thought he was going to be stabbed at that point.
Conroy took over and drove to Headford via Corrandulla. They stopped at Joyce’s and both Sweeneys went in and came back out with slabs of cider.
Conroy and the two others started drinking as the car drove towards Galway.
They stopped at the Trading Post filling station where Kinsey demanded Ackroyd give him €20 to pay for petrol.
The car drove to Galway and went out towards Salthill where Conroy overtook a taxi on the crest of a hill on the Ballymoneen Road. A Garda patrol car, being driven by Garda Denise O’Halloran, which was coming towards them, had to take evasive action to avoid a head-on collision. She turned her car and pursued the Golf.
Meanwhile, Ackroyd said in his statement that he thought he was going to die and was ‘shaking like a leaf’ in the back of his own car.
“John John (Conroy) took off like a lunatic, going through red lights and overtaking and undertaking cars. Kinsey was egging him on to drive faster.
“He kept looking back at me laughing and shouting ‘drive it like you stole it’.
“He drove out the Curraghline, to Clonboo and turned left at Peggy’s bar. They stopped and were laughing and joking about how they got away from the guards.
“John John drove on again like an absolute lunatic. We went around a bend and he lost control. He was doing 80mph. The car hit a grass verge, a wall and a couple of trees and went up on its passenger’s side.”
Ackroyd said he was threatened not to say anything to the Gardaí at the scene and he overheard Kinsey say to Conroy that if he (Ackroyd) tried to run, he would get him.
Conroy had told Kinsey not to worry, as he had a knife in his pocket.
Ackroyd said the manner in which they spoke to him from once they got into his car made him fear for his safety.
Ackroyd showed Sgt Kerin the route Conroy had taken from when he met the Garda car at Ballymoneen Road in Salthill until it crashed near Corrandulla, when he gave his second statement to her on June 17 that year.
He said the tendons in his arm were severed and came away from the bone in the crash. He had needed hundreds of internal and external stitches to his arm and had also fractured his shoulder.
He said he was ‘scared out his mind’ the whole time he was in the car.
Garda Denise O’Halloran told the court she and Garda Michael Dolan encountered the Golf at 11pm and pursued it as it sped away from them along the Ballymoneen Road.
The Golf increased speed to between 80 and 100km/h on the Western Distributor Road, overtaking cars and failing to slow down at roundabouts.
The car went onto Bishop O’Donnell Road, weaving in and out of the bus lane, undertaking traffic on the ordinary lane.
Cars had to take evasive action as the car sped through red lights at Westside.
Conroy drove though more red lights at the end of Seamus Quirke Road before driving the entire length of Quincentenary Bridge on the incorrect side of the dual carriageway, reaching 100km/h in all of the 50km/h zones.
Another patrol car, driven by Garda Nigel Silke joined the chase on the Headford Road side of the bridge.
Garda Ronan Leonard, who was a front seat passenger, told the court he got a clear view of Conroy driving the car as it exited the bridge onto the Headford Road.
Both Garda cars followed the Golf as far as Clonboo but as it continued to increase its speed, it was decided to end the chase in the interests of public safety.
Moments later, they heard over the radio that a car had crashed near Corrandulla and they went to the scene.
Conroy was subsequently arrested and charged.
The jury took just over two hours late on Friday afternoon to return a unanimous verdict, finding Conroy guilty of all charges.
Judge Eoin Garavan refused an application for bail and he remanded Conroy in custody to July 20 for sentencing.
Full details of the Christmas Covid restrictions
The Taoiseach announced this evening that the country will move to Level 3 restrictions from next week, with shops, gyms, hairdressers, hotels, restaurants and gastro-pubs set to reopen.
“It hasn’t been easy. Many individuals and businesses have made huge sacrifices. And many more are totally fed up with Covid-19 and everything that has come with it over the past nine months. I understand that feeling. Very often I share it,” Micheál Martin said in an address to the nation.
“This cannot and will not be the kind of Christmas we are used to but it will be a very special time where we all enjoy some respite,” he said, as he announced the planned move to “Level 3, with some modifications”.
The use of face coverings is now recommended in crowded workplaces, places of worship and in busy or crowded outdoor spaces where there is significant congregation.
From 1 December, under Level 3, as set out in the Plan for Living with Covid-19:
- weddings with up to 25 guests are permitted (same as current provisions)
- funerals with up to 25 mourners are permitted (same as current provisions)
- no organised indoor events should take place, other than as provided below
- gatherings of 15 people may take place outdoors
- non-contact training may take place outdoors in pods of 15
- only individual training should take place indoors and no exercise or dance classes are permitted
- no matches/events may take place except professional and elite sports, approved inter-county Gaelic games, horse-racing and approved equestrian events, all behind closed doors
- gyms, leisure centres and swimming pools may reopen for individual training only
- nightclubs, discos and casinos should remain closed
- hotels, guesthouses, B&Bs may open with services limited to residents only
- non-essential retail and personal services may reopen
- people should continue to work from home unless absolutely necessary to attend in person
- public transport capacity is limited to 50%
From 1 December:
- households should not mix with any other households outside those within their bubble
- people should stay within their county apart from work, education and other essential purposes
From 4 December:
- restaurants and pubs operating as restaurants (serving a substantial meal) may reopen for indoor dining with additional restrictions, (including requirement for meals to be prepared on site, inside the premises). This includes access for non-residents to restaurants in hotels
- higher, further and adult education should remain primarily online
Adjustments for the Christmas Period
From 1 December:
- places of worship to reopen for services with restrictive measures, subject to review in January
- museums, galleries, and libraries to reopen
- cinemas to reopen
- wet pubs to remain closed except for takeaway/delivery
From 18 December to 6 January:
- households can mix with up to two other households
- travel outside your county to be permitted
From 7 January, the measures put in place prior to 18 December will apply, subject to ongoing review of the trajectory of the virus.
The measures for cross-border travel will be the same as for travel between all other counties, that is, from 1 December, people should stay within their county apart from work, education and other essential purposes while from 18 December to 6 January, travel outside the county is permitted.
It has further been agreed that the use of face coverings is now recommended in crowded workplaces, places of worship and in busy or crowded outdoor spaces where there is significant congregation.
Curran, Melody and Molloy all leave Utd as Caulfield confirms two new signings
The comings and goings have continued at Galway United in the past week, with the club busy re-signing players fork last season, adding some new faces, as well as confirming the departure of players who were part of the 2020 squad.
Having already said goodbye to the sextet of Conor Barry, Joe Collins, Vinny Faherty, Jack Lynch, Timo Partheons, and Josh Smith, the club this week confirmed the departure of three more players: Enda Curran (89 appearances, 20 goals), Conor Melody (108 appearances, five goals), and Timmy Molloy (16 appearances, no goals).
Curran was signed for United as an 18-years-old by Sean Connor ahead of the 2011 season and made his debut in the opening game of that campaign, coming on as a substitute for the injured Neal Keane in the 43rd of a 3-0 defeat at home to St Patrick’s Athletic.
He made a total of 13 appearances for United that season, and he was back with the Tribesmen for United’s return to the national league in the 2014 season, when he made eight appearances, scoring his first goal for United in the first of those games, coming off the bench to score in the 5-0 win at home to Shamrock Rovers B in July.
His most productive season for United was the following year’s campaign, when he scored 12 goals in 25 appearances in the Premier Division for United (he made 29 league and cup appearance in total that season), including his one and only hat-trick for the club, coming in the 5-0 win away to Bray Wanderers in April.
The following month, he had the distinction of scoring two penalties in a single game, in the 5-3 win over Bohemians.
That haul of a dozen goals saw him finish as the club’s joint top-scorer in the league that season alongside Jake Keegan, though the US striker finished as overall top scorer on 16 goals thanks to 2 goals in the FAI Cup, and two in the League Cup.
For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.
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Biden is a Maree man!
The connections of incoming US President, Joe Biden, to Mayo and Louth on his mother’s side of his family have been widely reported – but it has emerged that he has just as strong links to a small townland outside Oranmore through his father’s side…as recently as four generations ago.
And the news has led to hopes that the President-elect will include a trip to Galway in any itinerary for a visit to Ireland during his presidency – and it is being reported this week that the incoming president will make Ireland his first state visit when he assumes office.
Contact had been made with An Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s office with the news of the President-elect’s Galway links ahead of his visit to Ireland in 2016, but Liam Hanniffy – who has uncovered the link between his family and that of Mr Biden, was told that the itinerary had already been planned, and a visit to Galway was not possible.
Liam Hanniffy, who is from Ballinacourty in Maree, has been researching his family tree since been contacted by a man from America in 2014 saying they were third cousins, and both were also related to the then US Vice-President, Joe Biden.
Research by Liam has discovered that a man called John Hanniffy, who was born just over 200 years ago in Ballinacourty Hill in Maree, is actually the great-great grandfather of the President-elect – and to make the Galway link even stronger, John Hanniffy married a woman whose parents was also born in the same townland, meaning two of his great-great-great grandparents also came from the same townlands nestled on Galway Bay.
Read the full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune, in shops now. Or you can download our digital edition at www.connachttribune.ie